ANAHEIM – The remarkable play of goalie Frederik Andersen was not enough for the depleted Anaheim Ducks to overcome the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago’s crisp-passing, puck-possession game resulted in goals by Patrick Kane, Andrew Shaw and Brad Richards in a 4-1 win against Anaheim in front of a standing-room only crowd of 17,355 at Honda Center on Friday.
The Blackhawks improved to 4-1-0 on their “Circus Trip,” which ends Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Final.
“Sometimes these trips go a little bit quicker when you’re winning games and you’re playing well,” Kane said. “We’ve got one more game left tomorrow and we’ll be able to go home for a few days and relax. Might as well finish on a strong note.”
Chicago said it didn’t pay much attention to Anaheim’s vulnerable defense, and the win was something they savored for a moment.
“That’s a heck of a team over there, a big-bodied team that will make you pay a lot,” forward Kris Versteeg said. “Tonight was one of those nights, though, where we played, probably, our best game of the year.”
Andersen made 34 saves and kept Anaheim in the game, notably with a save-of-the-year-worthy stop on Marian Hossa in the second period. The Ducks had their three-game winning streak snapped.
Kane one-timed a no-look pass by Versteeg from behind the net to give Chicago a 3-1 lead at 10:36 of the second. Kane, who has four goals and five assists on the trip, later hit the post, and the lead could have been more if not for Andersen’s outstretched arm stop at the goal line on Hossa’s backhand try.
Andersen made 13 saves in the third.
“We have a lot of NHL-caliber players in here,” Anaheim center Ryan Kesler said. “They were the better team tonight. I can sit here and make excuses, but we just weren’t good enough. [Andersen] played a great game and we let him down.”
Anaheim played three defensemen with a combined 16 games of NHL experience after Clayton Stoner (mumps) and Francois Beauchemin (hand) were put on injured reserve. Defenseman Jesse Blacker made his NHL debut. The Ducks acquired veteran defenseman Eric Brewer, who is expected to be available Saturday at the San Jose Sharks.
Ducks defensemen Hampus Lindholm (29:25) and Sami Vatanen (27:00) each played career highs in minutes. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he expected the forwards to take pressure off the defense.
“We talked about it before the game,” Boudreau said. “The forwards are going to have to help the D today. I thought Chicago was on a mission, and that’s as good as they’ve played against us in a long time.”
Chicago exploited Anaheim’s defense at the start with a 10-1 shot advantage and goals by Richards and Shaw for a 2-0 lead.
Richards hung out at the red line and got the puck in transition on a 2-on-1 with Versteeg to beat Andersen with a wrist shot at 7:58. Shaw tapped in tic-tac-toe passing from Daniel Carcillo and Duncan Keith at 14:30.
“I thought the goaltender was awesome in the third period [and] kept them in the game,” Kane said. “But definitely the start was huge. Getting up 2-0. When we come out like that and get off to a good start, it seems like our whole team just trends upward.”
Anaheim got more organized after a timeout and Lindholm batted in Matt Beleskey’s shot off the glass at 16:49 to make it 2-1 after the first period.
Kane scored his second of the game, an empty-net goal with one minute remaining in the third period. He had eight shots, and the line of Kane, Versteeg and Richards combined for 15 shots.
“You can give all credit to three of them,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Richards scoring that first one there, Kane all game long was a threat, and dangerous, had some good looks, and Versteeg was pretty nifty and handy with the puck as well. It was a good day for them.”
The Ducks had been 7-3-3 on day-after-Thanksgiving games.